Winter Driving Safety Tips: Black Ice Safety
Without a doubt, ice is one of the most dangerous types of weather conditions for drivers. Every year, it’s estimated that about 24% of all weather-related car accidents happen when pavement is snowy or icy. But ice poses a unique hazard because snow is at least easy to see and can provide some level of traction. Ice, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any traction for tires to work with and can be difficult for drivers to spot, especially when driving at night.
Black ice is a particularly dangerous hazard drivers have to watch out for. While some ice patches are visible, the term “black ice” refers to a smooth layer of ice that tends to blend right in with the pavement. The only difference a driver might see is that a patch of it might look dark or shiny, like the pavement is simply wet. The fact that black ice is so difficult to see makes it particularly dangerous since it catches drivers by surprise and causes them to lose control of their vehicles. Even having winter tires or snow chains on your car wouldn’t be able to help you.
Since black ice is so hard to see, one of the best things you can do is try to avoid it and that means knowing where and when it’s most likely to form. If you’ll be driving after sunset or before sunrise, be extra careful. Overnight, temperatures are at their lowest. In the early morning hours, the air often warms up faster than the pavement, so even if the air temperature seems OK, remember that the roadways could still be freezing cold.
When it’s cold enough for ice to form, try to stick to well-trafficked roads since the heat from the vehicles can help melt ice. Avoid driving on bridges, overpasses, and underpasses since they’re prone to freezing quickly and taking longer to thaw. Underpasses also don’t get direct sunlight to help melt ice. Heavily-shaded areas with lots of trees are also very prone to black ice for the same reason.
Once you’re on the road, drive slowly and increase your following distance from the car ahead of you. The National Safety Council recommends maintaining a 5-second following distance because it can take twice as long to stop a car on a slippery roadway. Also, keep an eye on the cars ahead of you to see how they behave. If you see a car ahead of you slipping or sliding, it’s very likely because they hit a patch of ice and at least now you have a chance to react and prepare yourself. Do not use cruise control when conditions are icy since this might actually result in your car speeding up if you hit a patch of black ice.
If you hit a patch of black ice, don’t slam on your brakes. This will likely only make things worse. If your car starts to skid on black ice, be careful not to overcorrect. Take your foot off the accelerator, gently steer into the skid, and return your steering wheel to normal once you’ve regained control.
Remember that no matter how well you handle driving in icy conditions, you can still become the victim of a car accident if someone else doesn’t drive appropriately. If you’re injured in a winter car accident, call a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer will be able to answer all of your questions, help you deal with insurance companies, and help you figure out what steps to take next.